(Corrects paragraph 3 to say operating profit rose to C$0.94, not C$0.84)
* Profit up to C$1.03 bln from year-ago C$779 mln
* Boosted by higher volumes, prices
May 3 (Reuters) - Suncor Energy Inc’s first-quarter profit rose 32 percent, helped by higher oil sands production volumes and higher realized prices in upstream operations.
Canada’s biggest energy company, which is building up its industry-leading oil sands operations, said it earned C$1.03 billion ($1.08 billion), or 65 Canadian cents a share, up from year-earlier C$779 million, or 50 cents a share.
Excluding unusual items, operating profit rose to C$1.45 billion, or 94 cents a share, from C$370 million, or 24 cents a share.
Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 77 Canadian cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Natural gas prices NGc1 averaged $4.19 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) during January-March, down 19 percent from last year. U.S. crude oil prices CLc1, meanwhile, soared by about a fifth to average $94.60 a barrel.
Cash flow, a glimpse into the company’s ability to fund development, more than doubled to C$2.39 billion, or C$1.52 a share.
Overall upstream production rose 6.5 percent to 601,300 barrels of oil equivalent a day. Crude oil production, as a percentage of total production, increased to 87 percent from 77 percent over the comparative period.
Oil sands production was 322,100 barrel per day, a 59 percent increase from the year before.
Suncor, which is expanding its oil sands production and processing operations as part of a joint venture with France’s Total SA , said it had seen higher oil sands production volumes, higher margins for refined products in downstream refining operations and higher realized prices in upstream operations.
Suncor, which has suspended exploration and production activities in Libya indefinitely, said it had taken all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of its people and preserve the value of its assets and operations.
Suncor shares closed up 40 Canadian cents at C$44.01 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday. They are up 27 percent in the past year. ($1 = 0.950 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Aftab Ahmed in Bangalore; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)